A POPULAR family wildlife park says it has been forced to permanently close one of its attractions because of the financial impact of Covid-19.

Underwater World opened at Birdworld in Holt Pound in 1977 – but has now become one of Covid-19’s latest victims.

As well as the financial pressures, the company recognised there was an inability to social distance in the Underwater World building, with the decision being confirmed as social distancing measures are set to continue for at least another six months.

Despite the news, Birdworld confirmed all 1,700 aquatic animals housed at Underwater World had been safely re-homed at various centres, including Sealife Centres across the UK, St Andrews Aquarium in Scotland and Marwell Zoo in Winchester.

Duncan Bolton, curator at Birdworld, said: “We are extremely grateful to all eight organisations which are offering our aquatic animals new homes.

“Like many zoos, Birdworld does not buy and sell animals, these animals are being donated to the other organisations, ensuring they have gone to the very best, long-term homes possible.”

Zoos and aquariums across the UK have been hit hard by the pandemic, where income ceased overnight, yet dedication to animal welfare meant costs were sustained.

Commenting on the impact of Covid-19 on the industry, Duncan explained: “As of yet, no zoo or aquarium has received any support from the £100 million rescue package promised by the government in June and given the strict criteria set, only a handful of organisations across the UK qualify to apply for the funding.

“Meanwhile, businesses like ours are continuing to operate with concern for the future, having to make decisions, such as the closure of Underwater World, to save ourselves. Animal welfare remains our top priority and therefore our costs are unwavering.

“We are incredibly thankful for the support of our guests who have visited us since re-opening as well as over 380 people who have made donations through our GoFundMe campaign and hope that action will be taken to protect zoos across the UK throughout the winter season.”

To find out how you can support your local zoo, visit biaza.org.uk/news/detail/help-needed-for-zoos-facing-worst-winter-in-memory